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Asian nations call for freedom of air, seas as U.S.-China maritime near-collision revealed

Abe poses hand-in-hand for a photo with Sen, Thammavong, Sein, Dung and Boonsongpaisan at Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo

“It is a gravely disturbing development,” said Ian Storey, a regional security analyst at Singapore’s Institute of South East Asian Studies.

“If China continues to challenge the presence of foreign naval ships in the South China Sea, it is only a question of time before a serious and potentially deadly incident occurs.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed at a summit in Tokyo on the need for freedom of the high seas and skies and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The statement did not criticize China’s new air zone, which has triggered protests fromJapan, United States and South Korea. Many ASEAN members have deep economic ties with China.

But Abe himself minced no words at a later news conference.

“The air defense identification zone China has established in the East China Sea is unjustly violating the freedom of aviation over the high seas, which is a general rule in international law. We are demanding China rescind all measures like this that unjustly violate the general rule,” Abe said.

Sino-Japanese tensions have risen over the past year in a long-running dispute over Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by Beijing. Both countries and have scrambled aircraft and conducted naval patrols in the area.

China and several ASEAN nations have competing territorial claims in the energy-rich South China Sea.

The Japan-ASEAN summit is the centerpiece of a three-day regional gathering officially billed as celebrating 40 years of diplomatic ties.

“I would like to build an Asia-Pacific future that respects each other’s cultures and construct an economic system that is realized not by force, but by rule of law and our efforts,” Abe said at the summit…

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Source: Reuters

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